Do Speakers Deteriorate with Age?

Do Speakers Deteriorate with Age?

If you are an audiophile, then the answer to this question is probably a resounding “yes.” However, it can be hard to tell if your loudspeakers are deteriorating or not. This article will help you figure out whether or not they need to be replaced.

do speakers deteriorate with age

Do Speakers Deteriorate With Age?

Your speakers will degrade as they get older because some of the component parts will begin to wear out. Usually, you will not start to notice signs of deterioration until the speakers are around 10 years old, though many speakers will last up to 50 years. When speakers do begin to deteriorate, it is often possible to replace the faulty components and restore them to full functionality, and sound quality.

The rest of this article will go into more detail about how you can tell if your speakers are deteriorating, what causes damage to speakers over time, and how to prevent this as much as possible.

How To Test A Speaker With A Multimeter

  • First, set the multimeter to read resistance (look for an ohms symbol).
  • Then, touch the red and black leads to the terminals of your speaker (they will work either way round).
  • Look at the reading, a 4-ohm speaker should show a reading of 2 – 3.4 ohms, an 8-ohm speaker 5 – 7 ohms, and a 16-ohm speaker 12 – 14 ohms.
  • A very low reading, or no resistance at all, indicates that there is a short inside the speaker.
  • A very high reading means that there is a broken connection.
  • Either a very high or a very low reading might mean that the speaker needs to be fixed or replaced.

How Can I Tell If My Speakers Are Deteriorating?

The first indicator that something is wrong with your speakers will probably be a change in the sound quality. This might mean that the sound that they are producing has become different from what you are used to, or they have stopped producing any sound at all.

A buzzing, static sound is common from damaged speakers, or you might hear distortion, such as changes in pitch and tone. Distortion is usually more noticeable at higher volumes, so try turning up the dials.

Any rattling sounds coming from within the speakers themselves also means that some damage has occurred. You can test to see whether there is damage to the cone of your speaker by pressing on it. The suspension should allow the cone to move slightly when pushed, so if it is rigid and stuck in place then that is a sign that something is wrong.

Check the housing for outward signs of wear and tear and listen for sounds that might mean that something inside has been dislodged. You should also have a look at the mounting screws and the cable connections to see if they are loose. Try adjusting the cables and listen out for changes in sound quality, this might indicate that there is a problem with the cable or the connection.

What Parts Of A Speaker Are Likely To Become Damaged Over Time?

The surround that connects the cone of your speaker to the main chassis is usually the first thing to deteriorate over time. This controls how far the cone can move. It also affects how energy from the cone is absorbed, particularly when it has reached its output limit. This component is external and therefore prone to damage.

Surrounds are usually either made from foam or butyl rubber. Those made from foam can become stiff over time, which means that they will crack and break down.  Butyl rubber surrounds are more flexible and resistant but will also dry out and harden after several years.

The voice coil of a speaker is also prone to damage over time, particularly from overheating. This component is a tightly wound coil of copper, aluminum, or copper-clad aluminum (CCA) wire, wrapped around a short cylinder.

If the temperature of the voice coil becomes too great, it will start to come apart and can smoke/burn as the adhesives or insulation around it soften. This is most likely to happen when the speaker is connected to an overpowered amp which will cause the coils to move beyond their limit.

Loose wire connections and damaged cables are also common problems for speakers. Often, this is an issue with the cables or wires themselves, or the port wiring has become loose.

How Can I Prevent My Speakers From Deteriorating?

Firstly, the factor that has the highest impact on a speaker’s longevity is the materials it is made from. The use of foam for the surround, or the use of cheaper materials such as fortified paper to make the voice coil column, results in the issues mentioned above occurring more quickly.

Investing in speakers that have a higher build quality will mean that you are less likely to find that they need replacing within the first 10 years. Cheaper capacitors wear out more quickly and cheaper chassis are more likely to suffer structural damage.

You should also consider where you are placing your speakers. Direct sunlight can cause sun damage to the exposed components and will also increase the likelihood of overheating. Moisture is always a risk for electronics, so keeping your speakers in a humid location is going to cause more rapid damage. The metal can corrode, the external components can be worn out and moisture inside the housing can cause short-circuiting.

Be careful not to overload your speakers. This is most common when using an amplifier as sending too much, or too little, output can cause it to fail. Listen at safe volumes to make your speaker last longer.

Conclusion – Do Speakers Deteriorate with Age?

While speakers are generally quite reliable in comparison to other electronics, they will degrade and deteriorate over time. In a poll carried out for CNET, Steve Guttenburg found that most people expect their speakers to last between 10 and 20 years, but this longevity is highly dependent on the materials that they are constructed from and the way that they are used and cared for.

Ensuring that the speakers that you buy are not cheaply made, keeping them dry and away from moisture, and ensuring that they are not overloaded, will help your speakers to last a lot longer before any issues occur. No matter how high quality your speakers are, however, some components will suffer from aging and this will inevitably cause a noticeable impact on sound quality.

If you do find issues with your speakers, it does not necessarily mean that they are dead. Many of the parts that are likely to have degraded are replaceable. More often than not, the first thing to fail is actually the cable connecting your speaker to your device, and this is a quick and inexpensive issue to fix.

Thank you for reading our article on Do Speakers Deteriorate with Age!


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